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If you’re anything like me, you’ve often seen another mom in the store, struggling with a baby or a toddler–or both–and thought, “I know you, what you’re going through. I’ve been there.” As a long-time homeschooling mom, I often come into contact with new homeschooling moms who have many of the same struggles I did. And I’m not alone. Today’s guest post, I Know You, Homeschool Mom, is written by another long-time homeschooling mom. Karen Stewart, owner of Chocolate Dog Studio, recently graduated the last of her four homeschooled children. Grab your favorite beverage and soak up the wisdom in what you’re about to read.
I Know You, Homeschool Mom
You look in the mirror and wonder if you can do this. The years stretch endlessly ahead of you loaded with books, chaos, and LEGO® bricks. How in the world will you teach Calculus and Senior High literature?
You drag yourself out of bed to change the baby, chase the toddler and feed the school-age child so you can start spelling, math, English, history, and science. Eventually, you discover field trips and read-alouds work for history, the Cub Scout manual works for science, and the AWANA book works for Bible — you forge ahead through the years.
I Know Your Insecurities
You wonder, Can I do this? Can I teach my child what she needs to know to be successful? Again, high school math, science, and literature loom like giants in the darkness of the future.
Friends and Family snipe from the background.
What about socialization?
What about testing?
How do you know they are going to be successful?
You’re keeping them tied to your apron strings!
They need to be out in the real world!
If it isn’t friends and family, then it’s the inner voice in your mind.
I went to public school and turned out okay.
It could even be your husband wondering how you are going to keep your sanity while friends gladly drop their children off at daycare and school. Everyone else looks so happy and fulfilled. They have had manicures and pedicures, and they seem to have money to burn. They enjoy lunch out with friends, and here you are scrimping and saving: heading to the library, Aldi’s, the book sale, the goodwill store, garage sales, and curriculum sales just to get the clothes, groceries, books, and supplies you need. Yes, you feel called to do this but can you really DO THIS?
I Know Your Fears
Will my child be able to succeed?
Will my child get into college in the future?
Will my child make enough money to live?
Will my child ever stop wearing that American Girl® costume everywhere?
Will my child ever stop spilling his milk?
Will my child ever stop spouting science facts to everyone like a professor and learn to play like normal children?
Will my school teacher Aunt stop quizzing my child at every family gathering?
Will my child ever put down that book and socialize like everyone else?
Will my child … ?
The list is endless.
I Know Your Schedule
You have strep throat, your older son has the flu, your daughter has pink eye, and your younger son has a project due across town in an hour. Do you call and ask for leniency on the deadline, or drag yourself out of bed and drive him over to drop off the project? Do you cancel the fifteen things you have scheduled and have a “light” school day (educational games and Netflix), or do you just give everyone a sick day? And when you choose to take a sick day, you’re riddled with guilt as you wonder, “How are we going to get all those days, subjects, and schoolwork caught up?”
You decide to add a day to the end of the year, but when the end of the year comes you just can’t take another day of school. You see how beautiful the day is, how the weather is so perfect; in truth, you are as burned out as the kids. So, you decide to start earlier next year and work smarter not harder.
You change curriculum, teaching style, this or that — but it seems every year is the same.
You decide you can’t keep up activity-wise with your friend who has only one child. If every one of your children has two activities, plus music lessons, plus scouts, plus Wednesday and Sunday night church activities, plus library day, plus volunteer time, then you will be gone every day and night of the week and sometimes in two places at once. You try to prune activities, but your kids thrive, so you start adding new activities.
Homeschooling becomes “van schooling.” One little obstacle in your schedule becomes a huge monkey wrench in your day. The van, the washing machine, or the dishwasher breaks down. Someone needs surgery or breaks an arm. You decide to move and sell your house. You become the caregiver for an aging family member. Whatever it is, something random happens and breaks the crazy, crazy schedule you so painstakingly created for yourself.
I Know Your Extended Family
They are either super-involved, not involved, or just plain gone. You wish they were involved more (or less), or that they would just show up twice a year for Christmas and Easter. If your parents are crazy, then your in-laws are great (or vice versa). Maybe the whole family thing is absent, and you wish there were someone–anyone–from your family who would ride this crazy bus of life with you. It might be fun if they came to recitals or taught an art day, or sewing, or woodworking, or this-or-that. They either interfere too much or don’t get involved at all.
I Know Your Heart
Sometimes you are lonely, or scared, or frustrated or worried. Some days you feel happy or over-the-top-excited because Jimmy finally started sleeping through the night–which means you did, too, and now you feel like a million bucks.
You go to the homeschool support group meetings and feel shy, lonely, and scared. Scared that they will ask you to get involved and you can’t add another thing to your plate. You stay late and talk your head off with people who get you! They understand your overwhelming passion for teaching these little people.
Sometimes you rush in late to the meetings, after putting dinner on the table for your family. You’re distracted at the meeting because you are worried that your husband won’t get the kids to bed in time, or that it will mean strife in your home if you stay too late.
The members of the homeschool support group know your fears. But sometimes you fear that if they really knew you and how little you school some days, they wouldn’t like you anymore.
They look so pulled together, so with it. They have all the answers.
I Know Your Marriage
You have problems at home that you don’t feel you can share. You often worry that things aren’t going to turn out well. You keep them to yourself because who would believe you? Sometimes the stress in your house is so thick you can cut it with a knife. The kids are stressed, your husband is stressed, you are stressed.
There is a health issue that won’t go away and it is affecting your marriage.
Your husband lost his job–the one that is supporting all of you–again and you are afraid you will have to go to work.
You feel unappreciated or under-appreciated. Mother’s Day once a year just doesn’t cut the mustard. You are often both Mom and Dad to your kids; sometimes your husband is just another kid and not a very nice one. You carry this close to your heart because who would understand?
Even if everything is great in your marriage, it still isn’t great. You never get a minute alone together, a chance to finish a sentence, or a thought, much less plan for the future.
Date night has dwindled down to special cookies and a cup of hot chocolate while sitting on the couch amid piles of clean laundry. “Dressing for the occasion” often means slipping into your newest pair of pajamas, which are over 10-years-old, because you are too exhausted to do anything or go anywhere–and too broke to spend any money.
I Know Your Kids
The quirky one, the perfectionist, the gifted one, the old soul, the artist, the special needs child, the learning challenged one.
You are fearful they won’t learn to read until they are 20. You can’t keep up with the three-year-old in mental addition.
They have dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia; hearing issues, vision issues, sensory issues; reactive attachment, apraxia, Asperger; ADD, OCD or some other combination of letters. You have them tested (or maybe not). They have severe food allergies, gluten intolerance, diabetes or some other issue that affects their learning in a school setting. You medicate or adjust their meals. They yell at you and push you, throw tantrums, hoard food or don’t eat enough.
You struggle with therapists and doctors, meals and menus. You read until your eyes cross. You study all the things that can help you teach your children. You are Momma Bear on steroids fighting to get your family the help they need, and you are exhausted. Where will the money come from to pay for the extra services they need? Just when you get it all figured out, you learn that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and (wow!) another member of your family needs the same services.
I Know Your Struggles
You are doing everything right, and yet your child is depressed. You go to church, you love God, you read aloud, you love them, you are good parents with a healthy marriage and you homeschool for goodness sake! Your child loves you but they are still depressed. You feel like Pollyanna pointing out all of God’s beauty everywhere, teaching them to look for the happy, funny things. You get up every morning afraid of what you will find when you open the door to their room. You learn to live with that constant fear.
People think you are depressed because you just don’t get out like you used to. In reality, you are doing so much with therapies that you just can’t do another thing. You are tired and worn out.
I Know the Reality
It could be as simple as your child is too tall, too short, too quiet, too loud, too funny; you wonder when they will fit in, where they will fit in. You study them as if they are a science experiment, looking for answers in the threads of your life. You keep all this close to your heart because sharing would be too painful, too real, and really (they look normal!), who would believe you anyway.
There IS Good News
This sounds gloomy but I meant to touch on all the stuff that happens in life–because life is messy. The good news is that God cares, He listens, He breathes our air. He knows the very cry of our hearts. He created our children and all their quirks. He created the creative, the mathematical, the irritating, the aggravating; and the lovely, smart, perfect, and beautiful. He created them all and He said it is GOOD! Your kids have a purpose that no one else can fulfill. They have a place to serve, a job to do, and your home is the incubator to prepare them. Trust your kids to find their place in the world. They might not go to college–that’s okay. They don’t all need to do the Ivy League thing. Sometimes they just need a job. Or maybe your child needs to attend the local Tech campus. Sometimes your kid isn’t ready to go away to College until three, four, or even five years after they graduate high school. God created each family individually. Don’t judge yours by what your friends are doing. It probably isn’t right for your family. Don’t judge your kids on what their brothers or sisters did. Give them room to be themselves.
You Will Overcome Your Fears
Yes, you will grow out of them. You will learn how to be consistent. Your kids will learn, too. You are making a difference in their lives.
You Will Learn
You will learn to manage your schedule. One day, you will look at your friend with two children, and then at your four children, and do the simple third-grade math. Four kids plus two activities each, plus church, plus music lessons, plus a 30-minute drive to get to each of these activities, equals too much time away from home. You will make the tough decisions and everyone will be happier.
You will discover home management skills and teach your kids to do chores so the house becomes more manageable.
You will not worry about time off for illness because you now understand about year-round school. Your kids are thriving, learning, growing and life is getting easier.
You will learn to accept your family. Love them or hate them, they are family. You will learn how to deal with them and put up boundaries where needed.
God Will Bless You
You will cry out to God for friends and He will bring someone alongside you. You will laugh and cry and support one another through the years. People will hurt you, but you will grow and get stronger; the hurt will grow less with time. Friends will move, and you will adapt and adjust. You will learn to forgive, and God will work in you and your friendships. You will find more friends with whom you can share your heart. They will see the good, the bad, and the ugly in your life–and yet they will still get down on their knees and pray for you. They will understand you (or maybe not) and they will pray fervently.
He Will Get You Through
The truth about Marriage and life is that things change. You will get through. God will carry you through this and time will change things for better or worse. He will be there, right beside you, through it all. He will give you the strength to get up and do another day. He will provide because He has promised in His word to care for His children. He cares for the sparrows, and how much more He cares for us! He knows the hard times, the times with no money. He knows the arguments and heartbreaking decisions. He knows when you are both Mom and Dad, and He has said He is Father to the fatherless. He will guide you and comfort you if you turn to Him. He is there when no one else is, and He is there amidst your hurt and the blackness of pain.
He Knows Your Children
God knows your children. He knows their quirks, their hidden talents, the way they can push your buttons. He knows the biggest talent your child has is their stubbornness, or that they are so imaginative you often wonder if they have a good enough grasp on reality to ever live alone. He knows you think they should attend law school because they are already great debaters when it comes to rules and decisions made. God knows all about it! He knows the life for which He is preparing them. That dreamer child will turn out to be an artist, perfectly formed for his place in life.
He knows your heartaches and sorrows from raising your children. God knows your children will make decisions that have nothing to do with how they were raised. He knows kids from good homes choose to do wrong things, bad things, break laws and break hearts. He knows we (as parents) make bad decisions and He forgives us anyway. He takes the bad and turns it into good. We often wonder what good could ever possibly come from a child hurting like they do, or our heart hurting like it does. Even when we cry out, “What good can this possibly bring to anyone in the world ever?” God has a plan and He knows what the final results will be. Rest in that knowledge. Rest in Christ’s sovereignty. Be forward looking.
God is There
That dark tunnel of depression–God is there. He sees your pain and knows better than you this dark side of life–God is there. He will show you people that have dealt with it and are dealing with it now. He will give you strength to find professional help for you child and someone for you to talk to. Don’t be too proud to talk to people about this; you will both do better with outside help.
You will come to the end of therapy time and doctor time, and things will get better. God is there with you in all the stress of working with out-of-sync kids. He will give you strength. After all, He has experience with out-of-sync kids–just look at the Israelites in the desert.
Rest in Him, Homeschool Mom
You often wonder what good will come out of all this. Rest in the knowledge that you are building one tremendous prayer life! You will have witnessed God work His miracles. You will be able to trace His fingerprints in your life. You will know when He has carried you through all the bleak, messy times of life. You will have lived life to the fullest. You will know your kids. You will know yourself better than you could ever imagine. You will be stronger through God’s strength than you have ever been before. You will have seen His hand take your children and rework them in His image. You will have had a hand in His plan to mold their character. You will have had a seat, front and center, to watch God create a new being ready to take on the world for His purpose. Life doesn’t get much better than that!
I know YOU, Homeschool Mom
My life may not be the same as yours, but I’ve experienced your fears and trepidations. I know you, because I am you, at a different time in life.
Trust in Him.
You can do this!